You're watching John Oliver, Bill Maher, Samantha Bee, or another given member of the late night comedy crew that's become so successful in the Trump era. As usual, their jokes about whatever ludicrous developments have that come of late are top-quality amusing, as are the videos and images they've made to accompany it all. But then (hopefully) you see something that gives you a certain, uneasy feeling.
You know what I'm talking about. It's that off-guard sense every free thinking person has gotten at some point while extolling the segments of these late night self-described liberal comedians, one which vaguely but undeniably tells you you're watching a slyly presented piece of establishment propaganda. This feeling used to only appear from time to time, being triggered mainly by the occasional production of drone war propaganda slipped into the comedy crew's programming. But since Bernie Sanders kicked off the battle to take back the liberal class, modern late night liberal comedy's true colors have shown frequently and with all their characteristic ugliness.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but their attacks on Bernie and what he stands for seem to have begun in April 2016, when Sanders was finally getting successful enough in the primaries for most of the beltway to take his candidacy seriously. That was when Samantha Bee-who, as we'll see, is the most blatant establishment mouthpiece of them all-did a segment wherein she interviewed a group of Sanders supporters. Despite Bee's professed motive to get an understanding of the optimism these Berners were feeling, the scene had a "well I'm glad you guys are keeping your heads up despite not being able to win" message that reeked of veiled condescension. And that was just the start of it.
By mid-May Bee's treatment of Bernie Sanders supporters had turned from condescending to negatively generalizing to outright lying about us and our concerns. In response to Sanders supporters' crying foul about the Nevada Democratic Party's inexcusable and blatant pro-Clinton rule changes, she blamed them for being excluded from the event by the dozens and used it as an opportunity to call out Berners' similarly sore loser attitudes towards the numerous other primary contests that Clinton had stole fair and square. Jon Oliver followed suit, ending his segment on the Nevada convention with an extremely deceptive monologue debunking an array of potential ways Sanders supporters could claim the primary had been rigged while addressing exactly zero of the concerns we actually had.
After Bill Maher gave his own non-address post-stolen California primary to Sanders supporters who dared dispute the results of the primaries, it was on to the attacks against those who dared not to accept the Democratic candidate that "won" under these circumstances. Samantha Bee devoted her episode on the Democratic National Convention to mocking the grievances being aired by the Bernie Sanders protestors there, throwing in all the disingenuous epithets about "white privilege" and accusing them of disregarding the concerns of disenfranchised groups while declaring the millions of Sanders supporters who'd had their voices taken away during the primaries to be sore losers. Then in October, Jon Oliver paid a similarly honest tribute to those disenfranchised Sanders supporters who'd defected to Jill Stein by shamelessly smearing Stein and third parties in general.
And late night comedy's war on genuine progressives hasn't let up a bit since the election. In February, Samantha Bee finally let her true feelings on Bernie Sanders show by calling him a "mansplaining prick." In March Bee went out of her way to inform us that the Deep State-i.e. a system that allows elites to primarily call the shots-doesn't exist. In April Trevor Noah, usually a less blatant member of the dissent-crushing late night comedy team, essentially excused Obama's serving Wall Street as president by saying "fuck you!" (I quote) to those complaining about his taking Wall Street speaking fees. And recently Bill Maher spoke similarly to the Bernie or Bust movement, which, while I wasn't part of, I should defend from Maher's disingenuous attacks (he didn't acknowledge the major concerns Bernie or Busters had with Hillary Clinton, such as her wanting to start war with Russia).
In case you're wondering after seeing me state that last fact, the reason I wanted Clinton to win was so that those beholden to her and her party could see for themselves the horrors that would come from supporting neoliberal, warmongering leaders. We'd likely be in combat with Russia by now had Clinton won, but at least this would get the other half of the left to wake up. Since this hasn't happened, though, the Democratic establishment's media gofers have been able to more easily point to Trump and the GOP as the source of every problem, as the audiences of those late night comedy gofers cheer uproariously at their wry observations and critics hail them as righteous gatekeepers of democracy.
To state the by now painfully clear, your built in establishment propaganda radars aren't overly sensitive. These comedians, talented as they are, have been admitted into the upper ranks of corporate media punditry for more reasons than talent: they're up there because they aren't willing to challenge the status quo. Even the late night comedians who seem to personally resent the Democratic establishment, like Seth Meyers with his pointed criticisms of the Senate Democrats who voted to confirm Trump's cabinet nominees, are not really speaking truth to power. In those instances they've criticized Democrats without focusing on parts of the big picture, like the Democrats' push for war with Russia or their unacceptable embrace of corporate cash.
And don't assume these figures are simply trying to toe the line between the Clintonist and Sandersist facets of their audience. They could do this without making the dishonest statements mentioned, and while fully addressing the problems with the Democratic establishment.
In short, whether or not these skilled spokespeople for the plutocrats like it, they know they can't challenge the status quo in their positions. When you make political jokes on the corporate media outlets while presenting yourself as a progressive, you can only go so far as the standard partisan cracks about how awful those Republicans are before the boss starts to get uneasy. And until the proportions of media company ownership, along with the prevailing political culture within the Washington beltway, are brought back to their post-New Deal states, there's no use in replacing the current late night comedy cast. As long as there's an oligarchy, there's going to be laugh out loud jokes continually presented to us which promote the oligarchy.
My fellow progressives, we need to stop pretending the celebrity clowns are on our side. As I just illustrated, they're decidedly not, and we need to reject their power serving material as we reject the joke-free power serving material from the CNN pundits. Because when we do that, we can start focusing not on pushing against what we don't like but pushing for what we want. Call members of Congress about supporting the H.R. 676 single payer health care bill. Voice your support for Bernie Sanders' likely 2020 successor and all around bane to the establishment Tulsi Gabbard, and donate to her campaign for peace. And do so while leaving behind the naysayings of the status quo's defenders so you can focus on the fact that we can and will win this.